Professional Bodybuilding’s Best Aim For The Top Down Under: 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix Preview.

It will take more than a full competition schedule to negate a successful outcome for the Aussie Pro, a contest that, over its 11 year history, has gone from strength to strength and which annually attracts top competitors from far and wide.

Professional Bodybuilding's Best Aim For The Top Down Under

With a full schedule of early 2011 pro events on offer - the Flex Pro Bodybuilding Championships, Arnold Classic, Australian Pro Grand Prix and English Grand Prix, all clustered over a four week period - the IFBB bodybuilding season is off to a great start for the sport's elite.

Such an exhaustive regime does, however, at first glance appear potentially detrimental to the success of the Australian Pro, an event many battle wary competitors must travel a comparatively long distance to contest and thus may forgo in favor of shows closer to home.

But it will take more than a full competition schedule to negate a successful outcome for the Aussie Pro, a contest that, over its 11 year history, has gone from strength to strength and which annually attracts top competitors from far and wide.

Its promoter Tony Doherty says that the 2011 line up will be spectacular and, true to his word, he has already signed several big names, most notably recent Arnold Classic runner up Dennis Wolf, emerging threat Ben Pakulski and the ever improving Johnnie Jackson.

Also, 2009 Ironman Pro victor Silvio Samuel has shown a strong interest in competing and has indicated he will make the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix his comeback show.

Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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This year held at the The Plenary on Saturday March 13, the Australian Pro Grand Prix has a long and colorful history. It is notable for, among many other things, giving established champ Ronny Rockel his first taste of pro victory, Lee Priest's controversial victory over symmetry king Chris Cormier and highlighting the perfect shape of things to come from Dexter Jackson before he made it big with his multiple Arnold Classic wins.

Now it is shaping to be a launching pad for the future success of New Zealand mass monster Darryn Onekawa and the second contest to be won by a redefined Dennis Wolf.

Perhaps most importantly, the 2011 Australian Pro may serve as the comeback show for the great Silvio Samuel, who, in a cloud of controversy, departed from the pro game shortly after the 2009 Mr. Olympia, where he placed, by his lofty standards, a dismal 11th. It is also possible that this comeback show could also be his third pro win.

Along with the increasingly popular professional men's show, the 2001 Australian Pro Grand Prix weekend will host a great deal more muscle and shape in the form of a full men's (bodybuilding) and women's (figure) amateur lineup, from which the winner of each division will walk away with a well earned pro card and the chance to battle it out with the elite of the sport at the weekend's pro figure and bodybuilding events. The pro qualifier is a first for the Australian Pro Grand Prix.

Kai Greene And Dexter jackson At The 2010 Australian Pro Grand Prix
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Kai Greene And Dexter jackson At The 2010 Australian Pro Grand Prix.

As well as serving up more muscle than could possibly fit on one stage, the Australian Pro, renowned for being a total bodybuilding entertainment experience, will, also for the first time in its history, feature a packed sport and fitness expo - Fit X - to be held at the Melbourne Exhibition Center over two days (March 12 and 13).

Included in this expo will be a strongman competition, the winner of which will be in the running to contest the annual World's Strongest Man event, along with a bench for cash showdown which is open to the public and is sure to draw many aspiring strength freaks.

And what sporting and fitness expo would be complete without the inclusion of the world's fastest growing sport, Mixed Martial Arts. Fit X covers the extreme fighting game, too, with a formidable contingent of UFC stars featuring former Light Heavyweight Champion the ever-popular Forrest Griffin, up and coming Lightweight contender Clay Guida and current UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. With a quality line up and much expectation on the shoulders of its elite the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix will once again be one to watch.

With the inclusion of the full two day sport and fitness expo, a pro qualifier and pro figure championships and opportunities for the public to test their strength in the first ever bench-off competition, the Australian Pro is, however, much more than a pure bodybuilding event. It promises to be a fun filled weekend for all.

But on the strength of the time-tested success of its pro men's bodybuilding showdown the Australian Pro Grand Prix will always be known for hosting the IFBB's best pro bodybuilders. Below is my assessment of its major players and predictions for where the top six in this event will place.

6th Place: Grigori Atoyan

Competing as a pro since 2009, Grigori Atoyan is relatively new to the professional bodybuilding game, yet he has continued to make steady improvements, as evidenced with his excellent showing at the 2011 Flex Pro Bodybuilding Championships where he took seventh place.

Always loaded with plenty of quality muscle and presenting a respectable degree of symmetry and proportion, Atoyan is a popular inclusion in any pro show.


Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
View More Pics Of Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.

However, one aspect of his presentation he needs to work on is his conditioning; never arriving fully shredded, as one must in the pro ranks, he tends to look smooth when compared to those who have clearly done their homework.

If he can nail his conditioning to come in ripped to the bone while presenting his usual muscular fullness he is likely to repeat his Australian Pro performance of 2010 by snatching a respectable sixth place.

5th Place: Michael Kefalianos

What a physique this guy has! With striation upon striation adorning a beautifully flowing physique, Michael Kefalianos - who, interestingly enough, drives a cab on the Greek Islands when he is not striking fear into the hearts of those who have slacked on their pre contest diets - is definitely one to watch in 2011.

With three fourth place and two fifth place finishes in 2010 - thus each time narrowly missing out on Olympia qualification - he could also be considered the IFBB's unluckiest pro. That he is throwing himself back into the rigors of pre competition preparation in a bid to redeem himself in light of his 2010 misfortune speaks volumes about the heart he has and his passion for bodybuilding.

Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show. Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.
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Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.
View More Pics Of Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.

Although a very strong competitor with conditioning that is seldom rivaled on any pro stage, Kefalianos does not, as yet, have the grade-A mass of, say, a Branch Warren or the lines and symmetry of a Victor Martinez.

Standing alone onstage he looks like a miniature Mr. Olympia; however, when up against the sport's best he is somewhat overpowered and lacks the overall impact the larger men make.

Still, he is always a threat in the smaller shows and will make life difficult for the Australian Pro field.

4th Place: Johnnie Jackson

The stupendously strong Texan Johnnie Jackson his on a definite roll with one of his highest professional placements (seventh) achieved at the recent Arnold Classic (taking into consideration quality of competition).

In what many bodybuilders would consider the twilight years of their career, Jackson is turning up the heat on his competition and proving, as other notables such as Ronnie Coleman and Toney Freeman have down, that age is no barrier to pro bodybuilding success.

Whatever the 2007 Atlantic Pro champion is doing is most certainly working as Jackson has never looked this good. Approaching a decade of pro bodybuilding competition during which time he has thrown done the with IFBB's best each year without fail, it was beginning to look as if Johnnie was finally wearing himself out (especially in light of his rare failure to break the top ten at the 2010 Mr. Olympia).

Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View More Pics Of Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Now he is back to his best form we should see him climb further into 2011. Although he beat Ben Pakulski at the recent Arnold Classic (where Ben placed tenth), one feels that Pakulski will have a slight edge at the Australian Pro, as he could have been a little fuller at the Arnold, whereas Jackson appeared to have peaked to perfection for this event and thus may be slightly underdone in Aussie.

Either way, the battle between Ben and Jackson will definitely be worth the wait and one to watch. Having said this, should Jackson arrive with sharper conditioning compared to the form he showed at the Arnold he could climb as high as second. In pro bodybuilding you never really know until the day of the show.

3rd Place: Ben Pakulski

The professional bodybuilding public has over recent weeks been served up a treat with the fresh muscle and freaky proportions presented in the form of one Ben Pakulski.

As one who takes a backseat to no man in the pure mass department, Pakulski has the added beneficial dimension of being as aesthetically gifted as any large competitor in recent memory: his wide shoulders accentuated with a small waist and ultra wide lat muscles, capped off with arguably the largest legs in the modern pro game has given Ben major momentum as he serves notice to all hopeful pro contenders.

His recent tenth place finish at the 2011 Arnold Classic is not to be taken as a reflection of his true potential: indeed, he had at this contest made conditioning improvements and showed a degree of presentational flair that appeared to be missing at the Flex Pro two weeks earlier, most likely an indicator of his increasing confidence levels.

Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
View More Pics Of Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.

As his meteoric rise continues we will be hearing a lot more about this popular champion. A third place finish at his first Australian Pro will further boost his pro credentials and set him up nicely for the remainder of 2011.

Should Silvio Samuel not contest this year's Australian Pro the door will be left wide open for Ben Pakulski to achieve his highest professional placement yet and present him with an excellent opportunity to pose down for top honors with big bad Dennis Wolf.

2nd Place: Silvio Samuel

In opting to make the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix his comeback-show Silvio Samuel will - should he compete - send a strong message to his IFBB peers: you had all better be in shape for the remaining 2011 shows.

Famous for his ultra shredded conditioning and full muscle development, Samuel - from 2007 through to 2009 - cut a swath through the IFBB top order to establish himself as one of the sport's very best. A regular top-three finisher and winner of three pro shows - the 2007 Europa Supershow, 2008 Houston Pro and 2009 Ironman - Samuel has placed as high as second at the Australian Pro (where he fell behind a pretty muscular guy called Kai Greene).

Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Tournament of Champions Bodybuilding & Figure Championships. Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Tournament of Champions Bodybuilding & Figure Championships.
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Tournament of Champions Bodybuilding & Figure Championships.
View More Pics Of Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Tournament of Champions Bodybuilding & Figure Championships.

With rumors circulating that he has experienced heart problems and, according to other reports, had become disillusioned with what he had considered his being unfairly placed in several pro events, many had written Samuel off.

Now it appears he is back and ready to again stake his claim as being one of pro bodybuilding's very best. Based on his proven track record of always arriving in unequalled shape, second place at his comeback show seems likely.

Winner: Dennis Wolf

With his recent return to form and subsequent runner up placement at this year's Arnold Classic it is hard to position Dennis Wolf anywhere other than in the winner's spot for the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix, despite legitimate threats in the sublime form of Silvio Samuel (should he compete), Ben Pakulski and Johnnie Jackson ready and able to take him down should he mess up his prep.

The bodybuilding media have for several years been speculating on the great potential Dennis Wolf has and how his genetic gifts will someday be translated into contest wins. With 2007 and 2008 being standout years for Wolf - with a win at the Keystone Pro and top six placements at the Mr. Olympia - the German champ was on schedule to dominate the pro division.

Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View More Pics Of Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

However this was not to be as in 2009-10 he lost the form that had made him successful, and drifted off course. Now he is well and truly back and better than ever. If he can replicate his 2011 Arnold Classic shape and conditioning he should have no difficulty winning this year's Australian Pro.

If he can make further improvements as 2011 unfolds Wolf may give Branch and Jay nightmares going into the Olympia. He may even snag his first win at the big O. He certainly has the potential to do so.

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